Sunday, September 30, 2018

Just watched...

...the utterly phenomenal film "Enter The Void."


Written and directed by French director Gaspar Noé, "Enter The Void" was nominated for a Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2009. And it is truly unlike anything I have ever seen before...and I was a film major and have seen a loooooot of films. So I am fairly confident in saying that the sense of this film is unique in cinema.

In a bleak, tragic back story, Oscar is a small-time Tokyo drug dealer from the Unites States who has earned enough money to send for his sister to join him in Japan. The two of them were separated when they were young after a car accident claimed their parents. After his sister arrives, she becomes a dancer in a strip club. When we enter Oscar's life, we see he is very interested in the drug DMT (the hallucinogenic tryptamine drug that is part of Ayahuasca, a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin) and partakes of it in a lengthy sequence at the start of the film. His friend Alex drops by and they discuss a book Alex loaned Oscar, THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. They make their way to The Void, a bar where Oscar will meet a client but it turns out to be a set-up and the police are waiting. Oscar runs into the bathroom to flush his stash but is shot by the police and dies on the floor. In other films, this would be the end of the story, but for "Enter The Void," this is just the start.

We spend the rest of the film floating, hovering, and flying over the city of Tokyo, passing through walls and ceilings, as Oscar's spirit is compelled to witness the aftermath of his death, how his sister and friends react, and how the messy, visceral, sex-drenched world continues without him.

I have had trouble sitting down to write about this film because the subtext, and the meaning of the contents of this film are so profound that it is hard to write something worthy of the enormous, cosmic ideas it contains. It is clear that the film is based on THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD as Oscar's experience of the "afterlife" mirrors what his friend Alex tells him are the stages after one dies. The film is abstract in a way for what I think is a very good reason. Just like Oscar's lengthy drug hallucination at the start of the film, the way this narrative unfolds (and is filmed either in the first person or with the camera directly behind Oscar's head) is to recreate a feeling, a sense. The kaleidoscope of shapes and colors in the DMT sequence serves to lull us and hypnotize us, allowing us to "tune in, turn on, and drop out" with Oscar. And the sense of the rest of the film--with its staggering otherworldly camera work, hazy views, neon colors, and incessant, disturbing soundtrack of an ambient, droning, hum--is crafted purposefully to make us feel disconnected from life itself, the way Oscar is. This is a mesmerizing film with some heart-stopping moments when one truly understands the meaning of what is being shown. I was quite moved (a few times to tears) to see in action many spiritual ideas that I have studied over the decades, in sources like THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD but also in other cosmologies and belief systems that speak to the ideas of death, an afterlife, reincarnation, and how the human soul is comprised of something that is immutable and infinite (I particularly responded to the idea of how, over time, Oscar is more and more removed from a corporeal existence and reality, and is more and more drawn to electricity, the raw energy of the universe). But fascinatingly, Gaspar Noé juxtaposes the possibility of these lofty spiritual ideas with squalor, and drugs, and animalistic sex, not in a religious way to illustrate a simple-minded concept of sin but to show that life in its totality includes all of these things. They are intertwined and the physical plane ends up being the void and not the other way around

And just how the actual, physical length of Proust's masterpiece of literature, "In Search of Lost Time" is an important element in the story itself as much as the characters and action in it, in "Enter The Void" the repetition of imagery, the time it takes for the story to unfold, and the obtuse way it does is integral to experiencing the story itself.




Recommend? Yes, it is a very special film but as usual with films that I like, I recommend this with caveats. It might strike some as slow moving, and indeed, as I mentioned, the film is deliberately striving to recreate experiences by using time as well as sounds and images. It would also be very helpful to be familiar with the contents of THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. There are also a lot of portrayals of violence and very frank scenes of sex. But I did not find any of those scenes to be gratuitous or unnecessarily prurient. There is a point to Oscar watching people have sex, and the point is revealed in the final scene of the film. All in all, this is an astounding film but not for everyone.

http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/enter-the-void

Friday, September 28, 2018

"Singularity" by Jon Hopkins and "Love SOS" by Justice

Anger is an energy. It can be a reaction to injustice.

Spend a little bit of time unpacking the possible injustices underneath these stories.

Jon Hopkins: "Singularity."




Justice (French duo Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé): "Love SOS."



Jon Hopkins' most recent album "Singularity" is out now.
http://www.jonhopkins.co.uk/

Justice's new remix album "Woman Worldwide" is out now.
http://www.justice.church/

Thursday, September 27, 2018

BEAUTY: Sculpture--Camp Bosworth

Artist, sculptor and woodworker Camp Bosworth has created a whole menu of larger-than-life-sized Dairy Queen items out of carved and painted wood. These delightful creations are now on display as part of the exhibit "Thank You, Please Drive Thru" at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas until November 25, 2018.


http://www.campbosworth.com
http://www.webbartgallery.com/

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Just watched...

..."Goltzius and the Pelican Company" by Peter Greenaway.


Regular readers know I am a huge fan of polarizing auteur director Peter Greenaway. You either love him or hate him. I happen to love him and his films. I think they are visual marvels that push the boundaries of storytelling.

This film is the second in Greenaway's series of films based on artists and their lives. His first installment, "Nightwatching," imagined possible nefarious circumstances surrounding Rembrandt's creation of his famous painting The Night Watch. The third in the series is "Eisenstein In Guanajuato," about Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein trying to make a film about the history of Mexico but being sidetracked by his first gay love affair (previously here). And slated for release next year (but we will see about that) is "Walking To Paris", about twenty-seven-year-old Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi walking from Bucharest to Paris in 1903 and 1904 as a preparation and prelude to becoming the most important sculptor of the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, Greenaway took a detour to one of his preferred time periods for a highly stylized, fanciful reverie of the life of German-born Dutch printmaker, draftsman, and painter Hendrick Goltzius, the leading engraver of the early Baroque period, or Northern Mannerism, noted for his sophisticated technique and the "exuberance" of his compositions of Biblical or mythological characters often in daring erotic poses.

In "Goltzius and the Pelican Company," Greenaway places Goltzius (a delightfully chatty Ramsey Nasr) and his fictional band of artists, fellow printers, and a troupe of actors traveling for an audience with the Margrave of Alsace (played with prickly aplomb by F. Murray Abraham) whom the band petition for money to buy a printing press. As part of the deal, Goltzius agrees to give the Margrave a set of books with engraved illustrations of the stories of the temptation of Adam and Eve, Lot and his daughters, David and Bathsheba, Joseph and Potiphar's wife, Samson and Delilah, and John the Baptist and Salome. To tempt the Margrave further, Goltzius and his printing company sweeten the pot with an offer to perform dramatizations of these erotic stories for his court. And what follows is not only these tales acted out each evening the troupe are in residence, but the back stage drama between couples in the troupe and the Margrave leering at one of the actresses. Eventually the troupe are put on trial--on a rotating circular platform--for some of the more salacious content of their nightly shows. As things spiral out of control, the stories become more and more violent, and the troupe become more and more desperate.

But the real story here, as usual, is Greenaway's presentational framing, and sumptuous art direction, costumes (or as often is the case, the lack of costumes) and sets. Everything looks like a spectacular, splashy Renaissance painting...just look at the film stills below!


Filmed entirely in an empty warehouse, the various sets--the Margrave's court, the theatre, the audience, private quarters, a river, a prison, are all set, to perfect effect, in different areas of the structure. And Greenaway here continues his exploration of screens within screens showing action, boxes within boxes showing art, and words and script flowing over it all. It is as Baroque and sumptuous as the time period Greenaway is invoking.

Recommend? Yes, I thought it was wonderful, but I realize it will not be to everyone's taste. If you see it, be be prepared to see lots of nude bodies (but not as many as in Greenaway's masterpiece "Prospero's Books" based on Shakepseare's "The Tempest") and sex (in one scene, I had to ponder if what I was seeing was an actual erection but concluded that it must be a prosthetic...how else could a poor actor remain in such a state take after take, while lights are adjusted and the camera is reset for hours on end?), and to hear some pretty strong language.

https://www.luperpediafoundation.com/

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

United States Voter Registration Day 2018


Today is Voter Registration Day in the United States and we all need to make sure we are registered to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections on November 6th, 2018. This will literally be the most important election in the history of the United States. We normally have one of the lowest voter turnouts among first world, industrialized nations but our Democracy, our Constiution, and our very future as a nation is at risk. Please, please, please, make sure you are registered to vote--and if you are not, PLEASE REGISTER AND VOTE! It is the ONLY way to exert your influence and power, it is the ONLY way to speak directly to our leaders, and it is the ONLY way to protect the idea of fairness and balance and Democracy. It is THE way to participate and shape your OWN life.

To be able to vote, you need to be a US citizen, at least 18 years old by election day (do you hear that young men and women, YOU will be able to tell the current leaders to stop gambling with your lives via gun violence, climate change, the erosion of health care, or any of the other myriad ways conservatives are trying to hurt you!) and able to meet any other requirements your state dictates.

To see when the deadline to vote is in your state, please visit U.S. Vote Foundation:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-election-dates-deadlines.htm

To check if you are already registered to vote (and please DO double check since the Republicans have purged voter rolls in a Draconian effort to reduce voter turn out), visit usa.gov:
https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

To REGISTER to vote, please visit Vote.gov:
https://vote.gov/
or
NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org:
https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/

If you would rather register in person, you can find your local voting registration office by visiting:
https://www.usa.gov/election-office

If you would prefer to register by mail, please download the National Mail Voter Registration Form by visiting the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's site at:
https://www.eac.gov/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form/

And once you are confirmed or registered, please please please go and vote, and encourage everyone you know to do so as well. Complacency let in this current wave of Fascism, nationalism, and cruelty, and we can stop it on November 6th, 2018.

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting."
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

"Mary Don't You Weep" by Prince

Coming from "Piano and a Microphone 1983," a posthumous release by Prince's estate, this powerful version of the traditional gospel song "Mary Don't You Weep" is incredibly moving on many levels.

Not only is this the first new release of music from Prince after his death (it was rumored for years that Prince kept what was called "The Vault," a mountain of unreleased songs, and we now have proof of its existence as this collection featuring Prince alone at the piano was discovered in The Vault on a cassette tape), but the video is a sobering, heavy indictment of continued gun violence (last week the United States had three--THREE--mass shootings in the space of TWENTY FOUR HOURS) and the continued assault against, and assassination of people of color in this country. A year before his death in 2016, Prince had become a vocal gun control advocate after the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who died while in police custody in Baltimore. It inspired him to organize the Rally 4 Peace on Mother's Day, and release the song "Baltimore," which included the lyrics “The system is broken. It’s going to take the young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life."




https://www.princeestate.com/

Monday, September 24, 2018

BEAUTY: Man--Brian Jordan Alvarez

Actor and filmmaker Brian Jordan Alvarez (who has appeared on "Grace and Frankie" and as Jack's Spanish fiancé on "Will and Grace") just posted a fantastic video of himself. It seems simple enough: he puts on a song by Scottish band Chvrches and dances.

And yes, he is handsome and sexy, with a great body that is a treat to see in motion, but let's get that out of the way. There is something mesmerizing, hypnotizing about this video and watching him move. The way he unleashes the energy, the way he abandons himself to movement itself, the simple joy of feeling one's body and truly feeling that body moving through space...it is emotionally moving and inspiring on a level that goes beyond the physical. It approaches movement as a spiritual practice. I love watching him feel the music, and feel the shapes it is making in his head which he then translates to his body. He lets it inhabit him. He is making shapes in the air...it is like he is creating a sculpture. His spectacular, improvised routine combining chaos and grace rivals any modern dance I have seen.

He and his dance are direct, intimate, urgent, explosive, expressive, sinuous, sensuous, unfettered, joyous, and utterly free. I am deeply moved watching him. Thanks Brian, for sharing a sense of life we rarely get to see in this world.



https://twitter.com/brianjoralvarez
https://www.instagram.com/brianjordanalvarez/

Sunday, September 23, 2018

BEAUTY: Painting--Belinda Eaton

The sumptuous, maximalist images in Belinda Eaton's paintings are engaging, fascinating... the juxtaposition of color and pattern is mesmerizing.


Top to bottom: Chinese Woman and Birdcage; Chrysanthemums and Beetles; Girl With the Orange Flower; Joshua; Man with Flowers; Man With Beard; Tattoo Man; Woman in Blue Dress; Young Cockeral

https://www.belindaeaton.com/

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy Birthday "Oh, By The Way" 2018!

Congratulations "Oh, By The Way," you are nine years old today!


Nine years ago, I had a dream in which I started a blog called “Oh, By The Way.” When I woke up that morning, I went to the computer and promptly started a blog called “Oh, By The Way.” Seriously--it was the first thing I did that morning, and yes, I often act out in waking life things I have dreamt.

"Oh, By The Way" is my digital scrap book of things I like, things I would share with a close friend and say: “Oh, by the way, do you know of this artist/ clothing or interior designer/ model/ singer/ actor/ gorgeous man… or, have you seen this video/ photo/ film... or heard (or do you remember) this song/ band... or, read this book/ poem/ inspiring quote... or, visited this place/ restaurant/ famous building... or, have you heard of this amazing new scientific discovery?”

And what have people responded to the most over the last nine years? Here are the Top Five posts ranked by individual pageviews:

1) A post about the sartorially splendid Nick Wooster is still king at a whopping 60,935

2) My essay about the spectacular sonic masterpiece "The Ninth Wave" by Kate Bush comes in at 28,475

3) 21,903 people have loved seeing Men In Make-Up

4) Photos of actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson have racked up 15,242 views

5) And gorgeous mature model Andy Lucchesi took over from last year's 5th place winner Jared Leto at 10,027 views Wait, Jared Leto is still 5th place winner at 10,356 views. So close!

Huh. Who knew?

Followers and regular readers: thank you so much! I hope you find this blog fascinating, beautiful, interesting, moving, inspiring, informative, and uplifting. Welcome to the birthday party.

Because I am Italian (well, half), this year we are serving virtual cannoli and zeppoles! Enjoy!